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Mess On A Plate
"The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside." [Begins to cry]
Morbo, Futurama

A common saying among chefs is that "you first eat with your eyes." Cooks who produce this food apparently expect everyone eating to be blind.

It could take several forms - maybe it's collapsed into an indistinct brown or grey glop in a bowl. It would be a misshapen mound that vaguely looks like a cake. Random tentacles and eyes could be mixed in. If it's a cake, expect the decorations to be something out of the wildest imagination of a Nightmare Fetishist (whether or not the cook is actually one). The appearance of the dish is no indication of it's taste, and the most common outcome of this trope is that the food is actually delicious. Those wary of the dish at first may even find it Orgasmically Delicious when they screw up the courage to try it.

Keep in mind, of course, that this is completely distinct from a Lethal Chef or a Cordon Bleugh Chef - in fact, while food such as this is a frequent indicator of one of those two tropes, it's increasingly common to have overlap with Impossibly Delicious Food (though most people will expect it to Taste Like Feet). It can overlap with Alien Lunch in appearances.

Can easily be Truth in Television - even in culinary schools, presentation is taught distinct from flavor, and it's fairly common for students to be much better at the latter.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Tina from Ai Yori Aoshi - as Taeko discovered, Tina's inability to make anything looking good did not stop her from making food that actually tastes good.
  • Ryo from Otomen can occasionally (usually with Asuka's help) produce food that tastes decent. However, it will invariably look terrible.
  • Naru from Love Hina is known to produce food that looks awful but tastes good.
  • Asuna's first cake from the first anime adaptation of Mahou Sensei Negima!. The second came out looking much better. Appropriate, as she's anExpy of the above.
  • Akane of Ranma combines this with Lethal Chef - she creates food that is both inedible and hideous to look at. The only exception is her curry, which is edible (if bland)... but still hideous to look at.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia: England's food is mostly portrayed as an indeterminable black mess. Sometimes it even gets pixeled out to emphasize this.
  • Sora from Download App Girl makes food that looks downright frightening. Somehow, it still manages to taste really good.
  • Usagi in Sailor Moon is usually just a general Lethal Chef producing only food that both looks and tastes awful. However in the second season she pulls off making a curry that looks literally like a mess on a plate but that actually tastes pretty good. In the third film her daughter Chibiusa makes some badly decorated cookies that taste lovely, Usagi herself in this instance does the reverse... her cookies look nice but are burnt.

Comic Books

Film
  • Starship Troopers (the movie) had a scene where the recruits are in the chow line, loading up their trays with what appear to be different colors of pudding. Emphasized by one of them holding a ladle full up at eye level and disgustedly pouring it out.
  • In Accepted, Glen creates a recipe he calls "Wads" that look like a well, wad of melted chocolaty goo. The others recoil at first, but once they get brave enough to taste them they rave that it's the greatest thing they've ever eaten.
  • In Sleeping Beauty the fairies decide to make a dress and birthday cake for Aurora. Having sworn not to do magic, they quickly start to fumble everything up. The cake is made with whole eggs (shells still on) and when decorated looks like The Leaning Tower of Piza if it were painted by Picasso. They finally decide screw it and fix everything with magic.

Literature
  • Molly in Moon Over Soho whenever she tries to cook anything that isn't High Victorian, on one occasion producing what is described as rubbery vulcanised mass that looks like one of those novelty vomit mats sold in Joke Shops (it was supposed to be lightly poached eggs in hollandaise sauce).
  • In one of the Myth Adventures stories, Skeeve, having never seen spaghetti, describes it as white worms or snakes covered with blood red sauce.
  • In Artemis Fowl, a sandwich that Artemis tried to make is described as looking like an explosion on a plate.
  • In Feet of Clay, Vimes suspects Vetinari is being poisoned by something inside the palace so he sends out for a Klatchian takeaway for him on the rationale that "they can't poison all the food in the city". Vetinari's reaction is to Stab The Salad and ask Vimes "did someone already eat this?"

Live-Action TV
  • A popular classic Sesame Street skit has Ernie making a plate of mashed banana with ice cubes and gravy on it. Bert is disgusted by its mere appearance, but guess what Oscar thinks?
  • Star Trek occasionally has food that is unappetizing to behold. Synthesized food in the original series, and occasionally replicated food from the later series, tends to get this treatment.
  • Babylon 5 occasionally has food that is unappetizing to behold. The dish Spoo comes to mind.
  • Johnny Bago: When Johnny temporarily joins a circus (not that he wanted to join, he was blackmailed into it) the owner/ringmaster literally feeds the circus workers on garbage leftover from the previous day's crowds, all of which looks like scoops of brown blegh.
  • In an episode of the classic paramedics drama Emergency!, the heroes save the life of a celebrity chef, who rewards them with an autographed copy of his latest book. When they later try to put together a dinner for the rest of the crew at their station using the book, they swiftly realize that they did something wrong and that dinner is ruined. They dump everything they were cooking into a single pot in order to hide the evidence. Just as they're taking it out back to dump it, the fire crew comes back and assumes dinner is ready. Despite having an odd gray color and the consistency of paper mache paste, the "stew" is universally deemed fantastically delicious by the other fire fighters, and the crew expects it to be made again in the future.

Music
  • Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" has one verse about dealing with the intersection of this and the usual wares of a Lethal Chef: "I don't care what these people think I'm just sittin' here makin' myself nauseous with this ugly food that stinks!"

Newspaper Comics

Real Life
  • The traditional military dish of this sort is chipped beef on toast—better known to soldiers as "shit on a shingle."
  • The Hawaiian islanders—and most of Polynesia—have a dish called "poi," which is made from the root of the taro plant. It is purple, and has the consistency (and taste!) of Elmer's glue. It's a staple food, intended to be eaten with something more flavorful.
  • The classic "Chinese" dish (well... it was invented in San Francisco, California, by Chinese Americans, so its sort of Chinese) widely known as "Chow Mein" started as this: originally, it was a half-dozen different left-overs thrown together in a pot and served.
  • "Nutraloaf" is an American prison food commonly served to inmates with serious discipline/behavior problems. It consists of several different foods (meat, bread/grain, apples, eggs, vegetables, beans, etc.) mixed together and baked into a meatloaf-like shape. Inmates eat it off a paper plate instead of a tray, without utensils. It is so universally reviled that inmates in several states have filed lawsuits to stop its use, arguing that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Quite a few students of the American public school system would argue that their cafeteria food falls under this trope. Not an impossibility in a school that serves meals such as mass produced beef and noodles, for instance.
  • Casseroles of most any kind are a staple in large households. They're rarely pretty, but are usually the quickest and cheapest way to get everyone fed.
  • Many dips and fondues look worse than they taste, even before digging scoops out of the surface. Refried bean dips in particular look and smell similar to dog food.
  • Some thick soups and stews have the appearance and texture of fresh vomit. Split pea soup, for example, makes a very effective fake vomit prop.

Theatre
  • In Dream Girl, one Dream Sequence has a throwaway reference (in the context of fine dining) to "oysters Rockefeller, which Ford Madox Ford, who was a great epicure, describes as swimming in a kind of green scum."

Visual Novels
  • The protagonist of Serendipity Next Door is a food lover and a very good cook, but judging by the reactions of other characters, the food she makes tends to look uniformly horrible even though it tastes just fine. When she makes dinner for Shinobu and Keiichi, the latter complains that every single dish is brown. This seems to be mostly coming from an attitude that what a meal looks like shouldn't affect the taste; when Masaomi complains about her cheap dishes, she asserts that it tastes just as good on a cheap plate as an expensive one, and is surprised when he counters that how food is presented affects how good people think it will be.

Webcomics
  • Schlock Mercenary has a restaurant chain that serves 'smutto', a combination of corn smut (basically mold), and natto (fermented soybeans). It looks, smells and tastes so vile that even Schlock (who'll eat pretty much anything) hesitates before eating it.
    Schlock: "And you just automatically give it to people who say 'number two'."
    • Subsequently, someone cooked it in real life. It doesn't look all that much more edible, until it's rolled in a tortilla - which at least holds the goo in.
      The Old Wolf: I happen to like both of these things on their own, so I'm willing to take a chance, and - oh golly, that looks hideous.

Western Animation
  • Bender's final presentation in the Futurama episode "The 30% Iron Chef."
    Morbo: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside. [Begins to cry]

Mess Of WoeDisgust TropesNausea Dissonance
Mega Meal ChallengeFood TropesMidnight Snack
Menswear GhettoPages Needing WicksMetaphoric Metamorphosis

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